July 8, 2008
Tuesday was a travel day. We wanted to backtrack to Chatel Censoir in order to head north into new territory. So we waved good bye to Clamency and headed back onto the river and started going downstream and, as a result, down in the locks, which was significantly easier. You do however, have to remember to get back aboard, if you’ve stepped off, before the boat gets too low. We didn’t, quite, ever get caught out by that.
At one point Leslie decided to break out the bike and rode along side on the tow paths. All of these canals were built before the internal combustion engine was around, so most of the canals have paths along side that were used to tow the barges. People, animals and eventually small steam tractors all laboured along the canal banks and most of the old bridges have little path bits that jut out into the canal so they wouldn’t have to unhook before passing beneath. This tends to narrow the passage beneath the bridge significantly and optically makes it look like you’ll never make it. I looked through all my pictures and I didn’t take a single one of the bridges; likely because I was way too nervous to take my eye off the canal. In a lot of places these paths still exist and have been converted to walking or biking trails. The bike goes significantly faster than the boat, so L would zoom ahead and then come back to see how our progress was.
We pulled over for lunch and drove stakes into the canal bank to moor to. Leslie continued to amuse us and herself by zooming back and forth. I got some amusing video, especially when viewed speeded up. After lunch we cast off again and kept on going.
At some point we had to pull over to the port bank, I think it was after the hand-cranked bridge, and C and Zak had to debark onto a steep bank so we could close the bridge behind us. I had spent 8 days aboard the Naughty Doc, a 39′ Beneteau, the previous summer and most of the first 4 were spent in docking practice. The one thing John Fairweather, our most excellent instructor, had drilled into our heads was never jump off the boat: always step off when you feel its is safe and never listen to anyone who tells you what or when to do it. So naturally I told C to jump off when we got close. And naturally she did what I told her to do. And predictably, she landed on the steep, long-grass covered bank slightly wrong and turned her ankle. It was bound to happen as I was finally getting comfortable with what I was doing.
Now I never got to see the ankle in question, but Zak did and he assures me it turned all the right aubergine colours and swelled up appropriately. So there we were in the middle of nowhere, with no icepacks, anti-inflammatories, tensors and a minimum of painkillers with a sprained ankle and a whole trip to go. I find myself, almost 7 years later, still feeling a bit guilty over what was defensibly, a slip of the tongue. Be sure to engage brain before putting mouth into gear was the message on a small poster my elder brother had given me when I was around 10. I still have never learned the lesson. This was, however, an occasion of one of C’s moments of creative genius. She whips them out every once in a while to make sure that I stay in my place. On this particular occasion she took a sock (several actually), soaked it with water, and popped it into the freezer compartment. A little while later she had a cold compress that she could easily wrap around her ankle. Change and repeat.
Seriously, it was genius; never would have occurred to me.
That resolved, she and Zak amused themselves playing crib while we journeyed onwards. Arriving back at our starting place at the LeBoat base in Chatel Censoir, we broke out the booze and lounged up on deck. I think we wandered up to our ProxiMarché for more supplies and we acquired a tensor that helped out with the ankle situation. I remember sticking our heads in a couple of shops like le boucherie (the butcher) and patisserie (pastry shop). No supermarkets here, everyone had their own space.
We also were schooled in baguette. It was late in the day by then and we stopped at the boulangerie and snagged the last couple of baguettes for breakfast the next day. I can’t remember how the topic came up but we were told in no uncertain terms that is was simply unacceptable to be eating day-old baguette. It was just not done. From then on any leftover baguette went to the ducks and swans and we tried to stick to the rules.
As a side note, looking at the picture I took of the ProxiMarché, I notice there was a road sign on the side of the building. Apparently Clamency was 17 km from Chatel Censoir by road. That gives you an idea of the distances we were travelling. One and a half days to get there and a longish day to get back. Your speed is not supposed to exceed 5km/hr and when you add lock times into it you don’t cover a lot of miles. But it is the perfect pace for a vacation.
As we sat on deck relaxing, a larger steel hireboat, populated with Germans, was having a lot of difficulty backing into the slip across from our stern. I hopped down to lend a hand with the lines. As mentioned I had spent a lot of time practicing docking and well appreciated just how frustrating it can be if you are learning. Anyway I caught a line, got them secured stern-to the dock, waved off their thanks and rejoined the boozers back on our boat. A few minutes later the grateful German helmsman wandered by to say thanks again and passed up a beautiful bottle of German beer as thanks. I took it. I felt it was my duty to get as much culture as possible out the trip and what is more cultural than beer?
Then I drank it. It was good.
I discovered later that apparently there was an expectation that, although I received no help from C in the docking assistance, since she was my “beer buddy,” I would be sharing the aforementioned cultural experience with her. Just another one of those things that just never occurred to me. My work, my beer. Seemed pretty logical to me. Still does. And apparently the expectation of sharing seemed pretty logical to her. And apparently still does. Rarely does a few months go by that I am not reminded of my selfish oversight in the matter of The German Beer in France.
I have in my notes that we played whist that night. Not a game I play a lot of — although I do enjoy it — so I wonder if it somehow was related. I do know the four of us have never played it since. I guess it’s just one of those things that make you go hmmmmm.